When it comes to masks, I like to think of them as supplementing a good skincare routine. Doing a mask once in a blue moon won’t really make a huge difference if you don’t take care of your skin day to day, but a good boost every now and then is always nice, especially as masks tend to give instant results. I tried quite a few before realising that I don’t really use them as often as I think I do, so the fact that most of the masks I own these days are minis suits me just fine.
I got my hands on several of these via a Sephora Favourites set that’s unfortunately gone now, but minis are my favourite because not only do you get a manageable amount of product that you can actually use up, but they’re also kinder on the bank balance (especially if they’re free with purchase) and they’re super cute too. Because you wash off your masks and they’re only on your skin for 10-15 mins (or sometimes less) I would rather invest my money into serums that you don’t wash off. So I’m not inclined to really spend big bucks on masks, but if you love them and use them all the time to help you relax then you might see value in splurging on something luxurious.
The vast majority of the time if I’m going to use a mask it’s while I’m in the bath. A bubble bath + face mask + 15-20min YouTube video is my ideal way to relax, so if I’m using a clay/clarifying mask that’s going to dry down on my face, I prefer something that doesn’t dry so much that it makes my skin feel parched when I wash it off. Outside of that preference, I tend to think clay masks are much of a muchness as the key ingredient is always going to be some form of clay. Although some brands like to dress it up by saying it came from the rim of an Icelandic volcano or the bottom of a remote Amazonian lake or whatever, clay is abundant and incredibly cheap and there's nothing really magical about it regardless of where it's from.
The way clarifying masks work is the clay absorbs excess sebum as it dries, with the idea that it will pull out dead skin and debris lodged in your pores along with it so you can wash it all away when you’re done. Lots of brands claim their masks will “detoxify” the skin, but the idea that the skin stores "toxins" that need to be removed by a mask is just not true. I use the word clarifying with the definition “to make clear by removing impurities or solid matter” which is something a mask is actually capable of doing. Although clay masks are effective, what they do is quite simple so I’m over getting swept up in marketing jargon about the magic they’re supposed to perform.
I tend to think of masks as either being clarifying (mostly clay-based), exfoliating or hydrating, but actually the Tata Harper Clarifying Mask (AU) is all three in one. It has a clay base (kaolin), while also containing lactic acid, fruit enzymes and “quartz sand micro-crystals” for exfoliation, as well as honey and glycerin for hydration. So if you don’t have time for multi-masking, this could be good for you, provided you can afford to splurge on it. At close to $100 for 30ml of product, it really doesn’t come cheap. I was happy to get a 7.5ml sample as a gift with purchase which I’ll probably get 4 uses out of if I stretch it, so you’d be lucky to get 15-20 uses out of the full size pot, depending on how liberally you apply it. In saying that, if you only owned this mask and you used it roughly once a week, it would still likely last you around 4-5 months.
Realistically, it depends on your budget and how often you make time to do a mask. This is the kind of thing that would be such a shame to save for special occasions only to find that it’s expired before you can finish it. Considering the brand is very much in the “all natural” camp, that’s entirely possible if you have lots of masks that you like to switch between. So I think all of those factors are worth considering if you’re thinking about investing in this.
The product itself is thick and sticky, and an unattractive sludge-green colour. I personally didn’t feel a tingle from the lactic acid and fruit enzymes, but after washing it off I can’t deny that my skin was very smooth, any texture was diminished and it didn’t feel super dried out. In fact, the second time I used it I accidentally left it on for about 20 minutes and my skin didn’t feel at all tight or dry afterwards, so I can attest to it being one of the most comfortable and least-drying clay-based masks I’ve used. I’m not typically into masks that are both chemically and physically (with scrubby bits) exfoliating at the same time, but this is quite gentle and my skin isn’t red or irritated after using it. Ultimately it’s a really good product, but it’s probably not worth the splurge for me personally. But I can definitely see how it would be ideal for people who don’t have time to spend an hour faffing around with 3 masks and just want the convenience this offers without compromising on results.
I also have the Boscia Luminising Black Mask, which isn’t a clay mask but it’s a similar concept in that it dries down and when you remove it it’s supposed to take debris that’s in your pores with it. I’m not really a fan of this mask for several reasons - the first is that you’re supposed to leave it on for half an hour, which I think is a big ask since most clay masks are in the 10-15 minute range. Secondly it’s a thick, gooey, opaque black paste, so if you want to get other things done while you’ve got your mask on you might scare the people you live with. If you like your baths on the cooler side then you can just have a long one with this on, but if you like them more on the ~hot n steamy~ side then this won’t dry down properly. The final straw for me is that removing it is a pain in the ass. Peeling it off isn’t that easy because it tears off in pieces, leaving bits behind on your face that you then have to wash off, and if any patches are still wet then forget about it. It’s not too drying and it does give similar results to a standard clay mask, but it’s a lot more hassle than it’s worth, and I've since given this away to a friend who wanted to try it.
Initially when I first got into the beauty blogging world exfoliating masks were a major thing (remember the REN Glycolactic one?), but I’ve realised now that I’m not sure I really have a need for one in my routine for two reasons. The first is that I exfoliate regularly as part of my normal routine so I don’t really need a mask on top of that.
The second is because I like using masks in the bath, but you have to be careful with exfoliating masks lest you leave them on for too long and irritate/over-exfoliate your skin. Setting a timer isn’t exactly conducive to relaxing, and I don’t like washing my masks off in the bathwater as it’s usually full of bubble bath, which I don’t want to put on my face. If I want an exfoliating boost I’m far more likely to use an overnight serum or a treatment because I don’t have to worry about removing it, but that’s just what tends to work for me.
In saying all of that, I recently got a sample of the Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask and was keen to give it a try. The first thing I have to say is that I don’t like that the marketing around this product gives the impression that you could just crush up some citrus fruits and put them on your face to get the benefits of AHAs. If you couldn’t tell, I don’t really buy into the whole “natural”, “non-toxic”, “chemicals are bad for you” side of skincare (or food, or anything else), and I guarantee they made this in a lab and not a kitchen, but ignoring the marketing the product itself seems to work quite well. I didn’t feel any tingling using this, which makes me think it’s fairly gentle, but I do like that it’s clear so you would be able to see any signs of redness or irritation if your skin were reacting badly to it, rather than waiting until it’s time to wash it off to find out. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly hydrating so each time I’ve used it I’ve followed up with a hydrating mask, but it has definitely left my skin feeling smoother and looking brighter so it’s done its job well.
I’ll be honest, I’m not majorly into fruit enzymes as an exfoliating method as they tend to be a lot less stable over time than traditional AHAs like gycolic or lactic acid. I also don’t know if this would be the best for sensitive skin because of all the fruit extracts, but it did work for me and I do think it’s a nice mask. I also appreciate that Fresh offer a 30ml size that I think is quite well priced at $33 CAD. If you’re in the market for an exfoliating mask and like the sound of this one, I’d recommend getting the smaller one over the 100ml as the bigger one will likely stop being effective before you can finish it.
Having flown 5 times between North America and Australia this year, I relied heavily on a hydrating mask to stop my skin shriveling up like a prune on those long haul flights. So when looking for a hydrating mask I have a few requirements. I want something discreet, i.e. clear and not too sticky so I don’t feel self-conscious wearing it in public. I want to be able to layer it so I can reapply the mask throughout the flight, and for when I’m not flying (99% of the time), I like to have the option to sleep in it and not have to wash it off.
I’ve said it before, but I don’t think hydrating the skin is overly complicated, there are a tonne of cheap hydrating ingredients out there and if you throw some hyaluronic acid in the mix you’re pretty much set. So I’m not really going to spend a lot of money on a mask that simply hydrates the skin because I think there’s a lot of room for brands to mark up the price on simple products, and because hydration isn’t an issue I particularly struggle with, I find most hydrating products work well for me.
I got a sample of the GlamGlow ThirstyMud (AU) mask in a Mecca Beauty Loop box a while back and it’s what I used on each of those flights, and it worked a treat. I also used The Ordinary’s Buffet underneath it on the last two of those flights and I definitely think that helped. I can’t deny that the GlamGlow mask did exactly what I needed it to, plus my sample came in a travel-friendly tube, but I just don’t like their branding and I find them overpriced, so I probably wouldn’t buy it for those reasons.
If you want an example of what I don’t like about the brand, firstly I think ThirstyMud is a stupid name because it’s not a traditional mud/clay mask, so using the word mud in the name is misleading. Secondly, they claim the key ingredients in the product are their trademarked blends of actives called Dewdration, Hydrapack, GreenEnergy and Teaoxi Olive Leaf. “Hydrapack”, for example, contains actives such as “botanimist” and “hydraclay”, while GreenEnergy contains “ginger root for radiance and detoxifying”.
My eyes basically rolled out of my head typing that. They just made up a bunch of words and vague claims, and because they’re “patented blends” you can’t identify most of it in the ingredients list. Nothing against ginger root by the way, it’s a decent antioxidant but it most certainly will not “detoxify” anything, as previously discussed.
So while I like ThirstyMud as a product, I don’t really buy into the brand, and furthermore I’m probably not going to pay close to $100 for 50ml of a hydrating mask, when I can get 80ml of the Glossier Moistursing Moon Mask for $27 CAD.
The Glossier mask works just as well so this is what I’ll be using on flights in the future. It’s definitely hydrating, it’s clear and not too sticky on the skin, and I don’t need to wash it off. Plus I think it’s affordable/appropriately priced, so it ticks all my boxes, which is why it’s the only full sized hydrating mask I have right now.
I also have a mini of the Laneige Multiberry Yoghurt Repairing Mask. Mine came in that Sephora Favourites set, but you can also get it in a double pack with another mini of the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask for $8 if you wanted to try it – bargain! The full size is a similar price point to the Glossier, which I think is fair, and it performs much the same. It’s slightly thinner feeling but it sinks in well and doesn’t look obvious on the skin, so it’s another good one for flying or sleeping in.
They claim that it’s formulated with antioxidants in the form of berry extracts, as well as niacinamide, but since all of those ingredients are listed after fragrance, I’m not overly confident that they’re going to do much. But in terms of hydration they’ve got you covered with glycerin, shea better and cocoa seed butter. It does smell quite strongly of yoghurt so I probably wouldn’t recommend this for sensitive skins, but it hydrates well enough and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It's decent, but I won't be repurchasing it.
The final hydrating mask I have to talk about is the Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask. Now, this isn’t quite as bad, but unfortunately it follows in GlamGlow’s footsteps a bit with the marketing. They make a big fuss of their Echinacea “GreenEnvy” Honey, which they say “heightens the hydrating and purifying benefits of honey and is full of potent natural antioxidants.” I mean, even if their special honey enhances the benefits of honey (yeah, I’m confused too) the Echinacea extra that makes it so special is right down the bottom of the ingredients list, and is then followed by honey.
They do list a honey extract fourth in the ingredients, but the first ingredient is glycerin, which is great for hydration, while the second is diglycerin, so I would guess that the bulk of the work is really being done by those two. I’m also not fussed about my hydrating mask containing antioxidants as I use a vitamin C serum every day and that’s going to do more for my skin than a mask I leave on for 10 minutes every so often.
In saying that, the actual experience of using the mask is quite nice. It’s a very thick, honey-coloured balm texture that you smooth over your face and massage in. It really warms up and feels quite creamy while you’re doing it but fortunately the warming sensation dies down once you stop massaging as it can be a little uncomfortable if you’re not into that sort of thing. My skin definitely felt soft and plump after using this, and it’s quite a fun experience. However, I personally wouldn’t purchase the full size because you have to wash it off, and it definitely looks like you’re wearing a mask, so it wouldn’t be suitable for flights. I also think at $75CAD the initial cost is quite high, though you do get 117g of product, so compared to GlamGlow it’s a lot more reasonable. I think if they sold a 50ml size for around $40 it would be more accessible, but if you love a hydrating mask and don’t mind one that you have to wash off, this is quite nice and a pot of it will last you forever.
Although I’ve tried a few sheet masks in my time, I’ve never been super into them because regardless of whatever claims they make I tend to only think of them as hydrating masks, at least when we’re talking about the Korean ones that are under $5 a mask. They’re great for travel if you want to do a mask once you get to your destination because you don’t have to bring anything back with you, but the packaging is quite wasteful when you compare them to a traditional mask in a pot or a tube.
Plus if you consider that you spend say, $4 on a mask, (which is very much on the affordable side these days now that high end brands have started making them) you get one use out of it. But if you were to spend $40 on even 50ml of product, or $27 on 80ml of the Glossier Moon Mask, I guarantee you’re going to get far more uses out of it than you would if you spent that money on individual masks. I think if you only use masks a couple of times a year then they’re good to have on hand, or you can buy one as you need it, but if you like to use masks more frequently you’re better off buying a tub/tube as your money will go a lot further.